x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Syrian diplomats around the world expelled

Syria Unrest: EU nations join Australia and Canada in expelling senior Syrian diplomats in protest of the massacre at Hula.

PARIS // France, Britain and Germany are expelling senior Syrian diplomats, officials said today, increasing pressure on Damascus after a massacre in which the United Nations said families were shot at close range in their homes.

Australia and Canada have also expelled their Syrian diplomats.

Diplomatic sources said several EU nations were weighing a joint expulsion of Syria’s ambassadors in response to the massacre in Hula, in which at least 108 people, including 49 children, were killed.

“That idea is on the table,” said an EU diplomat ahead of talks today and tomorrow between ambassadors from the 27-nation bloc.

In Paris, President Francois Hollande said that France’s decision to expel Ambassador Lamia Shakkur, which would be formally communicated to her either today or tomorrow, was “not a unilateral decision by France, but a decision agreed upon with [our] partners.”

In Berlin, national news agency DPA reported that Germany too would expel the Syrian ambassador in protest.

British officials said that the UK is expelling three Syrian diplomats in protest at the killings, among them Charge d’Affaires Ghassan Dalla – the country’s top ranking diplomat in London. The officials demanded anonymity because they said they were not allowed to discuss the action ahead of a planned public statement from William Hague, the foreign secretary.

Mr Hague confirmed that the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Australia were all taking action to expel the diplomats.

Moves from EU nations came after Australia expelled Syria’s top diplomat, which Bob Carr, the foreign minister, said is the most effective way we’ve got of sending a message of revulsion of revulsion to the Syrian government.

Syrian charge d’affaires Jawdat Ali was notified of the decision to expel him and one other diplomat a day after he was called in to meet officials over the killings which sparked global condemnation.

Mr Carr said Mr Ali, Syria’s highest ranked diplomat in Australia, and the other unnamed official had 72 hours to leave the country.

“This massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in Hula was a hideous and brutal crime,” Mr Carr said.

“The Syrian government can expect no further official engagement with Australia until it abides by the UN ceasefire and takes active steps to implement the peace plan agreed with Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.”

The decision came as Syrian President Bashar Al Assad received Annan for a meeting in Damascus, according to Syria’s state news agency Sana.

Mr Carr said Mr Ali had been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians were appalled by the killings and Canberra would pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account.

“They’re appalled at a regime that could connive in or organise the execution, the killing of men, women and children,” he said.

“Australians want that conveyed. And the best way of conveying it right now, given the restraints of what we deal with in the UN in New York, is to expel Syrian diplomats from Australia.”

Mr Carr added that Australia took the action “with other nations around the world” and he expected similar announcements to be made in other capitals soon.

“We are moving more or less with our friends in the world — I expect other countries to be doing this overnight Australian time,” Mr Carr said.

UN-Arab envoy Mr Annan, who will seek to salvage his battered Syrian peace plan during “frank” talks with Assad, called the massacre in the central town “an appalling moment with profound consequences.”

The former UN chief said those responsible must be held to account, and urged “everyone with a gun” to abide by his six-point blueprint to help end 15 months of bloodshed.

World leaders have voiced outrage over the deaths of at least 108 people in the central town of Hula on Friday and Saturday, among them 49 children and 34 women, many blown to bits or shot dead at point blank range.